Mind Over Matter?

Fat Cat.
Orphaned image, resized (smaller).

Can obesity be a symptom of depression? I certainly think so, although I only have anecdotal evidence to support my opinion. To wit;

Based on what a chubby friend once told me, this is a vicious cycle; feeling depressed? Eat comfort foods, which leads to weight gain, which leads to more depression, which leads to eating more comfort foods, more weight gain, followed by deeper depression ..

On the other hand, a doctor once explained obesity to another friend of mine as resulting from additive behavior. But, he said, a food addiction not like an addiction to cigarettes or heroin because you can make a decision to not smoke or use drugs and to never interact with those substances again. Not so with food! It's just not possible to get over a food addiction because you must interact with food to continue living.

These enlightened attitudes are rare and, surprisingly, even obese people typically don't share them. What is the toll of obesity on obese people? How do they feel about being obese? How does their attitude about their situation contribute to their obesity?

This article, co-authored by Marlene B. Schwartz, associate director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, discusses her recently published study that examines the effect of one's own weight on fat bias. One thing that she did was to conduct a poll that yielded some interesting results;

Nearly half [of respondents] said they would swap one year of life rather than be fat, while 15 percent said they'd give up 10 years or more. About a third of respondents said they'd rather get divorced than be obese. One in five said they'd prefer to be childless; 15 percent said that they'd pick severe depression over obesity and 14 percent chose alcoholism over girth.

Ten percent of participants reported that they would rather have a child who suffered from anorexia than obesity; 8 percent said they'd prefer to have a child with a learning disability.

People in the study did draw the line on some sacrifices: Only 5 percent were willing to lose a limb, and just 4 percent would trade blindness for obesity.

So tell me, dear readers, if you were to participate in that poll, how would you answer those questions?


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I am obese, and for myself I wouldn't trade for any of those options. On the other hand, as for my daughter, I wouldn't have her trade her learning disabilities FOR obesity. The reason is simple: whatever problems she encounters because of her learning disabilities, it does not at this point seem likely that they will shorten her life--and I want a long life for my daughter.

I wouldn't know whether food could be considered an addiction, but I do like to eat. Food tastes wonderful and ranks right up there with leisurely soaks in a tub of hot water.

One year of life: Yeah, maybe. If only because I know exactly how long it takes to lose a substantial amount of weight (years), and how many more years one spends on making sure it stays off and in re-losing whatever you've gained to slip-ups and lifestyle shifts. Giving up a year of life in exchange for being one of the folks who has an easy time with their weight seems... efficient.

For the rest of it, my answer is a pretty consistent chain of nos. There are real health risks to obesity, but both obesity and the health risks can be managed better than those of some of the other conditions listed. And, again, there are real psychological risks, but again, those can also be better-managed than the proposed alternatives...

I was obese until I dropped about 210 pounds.

I too have thought of obesity as an addiction to a substance you need to live.

I just finally said enough was enough and I wouldn't be able to make the necessary lifestyle changes if I waited until I was much older. Plus I was concerned that if I waited any longer my skin wouldn't shrink back(a big problem for those of us over 35).

Addiction runs in my family. There's alcoholism on both sides; both grandfathers and my father smoke. My father's mother was so big that she couldn't move off the couch almost all the time I knew her. She probably didn't way much over 300, which is actually small for being couch bound, but with old age and muscle atrophy she didn't move much that I ever saw. The funny thing is that on my mom's side of the family, the overweight people worked outside all the time. Even though she was around 230, Grandma still walked beans and worked on the farm until she died. Same with my mom and uncle although they are even heavier and with large pot bellies.

It's tough. It's very tough. I've been able to draw on my mild ocd to track my calories and keep them down. But I *so* want to eat a bag of doritos and peanut m'n'm's. Or make my homemade pizza with pounds of mozzarella. Or an order of crab meat rangoons covered in sweet and sour sauce.

Sorry, got into a Homer Simpson moment there.

I just know that I won't be able to have any of that stuff ever again, or at least for another year or so.

I kind of think of it like Terry Pratchett's description of Commander Vimes from (I think) Feet of Clay: One drink was not enough and two was too many. If I indulge even a little, it's like a smoker who has that 1 cigarette and is suddenly smoking 2 packs a day or an alcoholic who can't go back to just a glass of wine before dinner.

Well, I'm obese and I couldn't care less. I eat what I like and don't worry about it. My weight is stable - I can wear clothes I've had for 20 years -which probably says something about my fashion sense, too ;-) . My health is good (my doctor said once he thought he should tell me to lose weight but couldn't find a justification) and I don't care that I'm not "sexy". I wouldn't swap a year for skinniness. I sure as hell wouldn't be depressed instead (I know depressed people; their lives are no fun.) I am childless - maybe if I had kids my reaction to that would be meaningful. When I was in the army I had to meet weight standards, and it was hell. I was hungry and angry all the time. I like me.

Most people believe that their addiction for food or drugs or another person or whatever is because of depression or has caused their depression.

To cut a long story short I would recommend that you look up CODPENDENCY. The word CODEPENDENCY is an unfortunate term. I read about it years ago but didn't GET IT (unfortunately).

Now that I have revisited CODEPENDENCY again, and struck articles that are more understandable to lay people like me, I can see that this has been my problem all along.

Low self esteem, believing you can change other people, blaming other people for your problems - if only he would stop doing that.




I would also like to stay that giving up chemical addiction is no walk in the park either. Most of us chemically addicted people are actually CODEPENDENT as I would imagine are food addicted people. We have developed these addictions because of our CODEPENDENCY. Believe in yourself and stop looking for validation from others.

Accept others as they are, don't BLAME, accept responsibility for your problems and SEEK HELP. THERE IS NO SHAME I SEEING A PSYCHOLOGIST OR THERAPIST.

Anti-depressants are only a chemical fix which does not have any long term solutions for those with long term problems. I've been there. I should have had counselling as well and was not referred on by my psychiatrist. He was only concerned with dishing out pills which were no help in the long term because my problems were never addressed - just masked for a while. Side effects are a problem with anti depressants also. Dont get me wrong I think that sometimes they may be appropriate to get those brain chemicals back to a place where they can be helped.

Drugs make you feel good - like a soak in a hot tub and better. Its when you realise that you are destroying your life and the lives of those around you because of your preoccupation with the drugs that you realise how hard they are to give up. Withdrawals both physical and emotional are HORRIBLE. For you and everyone around you. It is usually much easier to go and score some more drugs and hop back into that lovely hot tub than to do the hard yards. Find out what might have caused you to slip into your addiction in the first place and work from there - be it food or otherwise. Read about codependency, see a psychologist - who knows you might find something relevant. Maybe you wont. I'm hopeful I've finally found the answer - although there is still a difficult road ahead.


I've lost about 30 pounds since starting on wellbutrin in november-december. Some of it is feeling motivated to get up and move instead of moping. Some of it is feeling less like eating when I'm not hungry.

Slightly off-topic, but the thing that bothers me about this general topic is the way people often treat obseity as an either-or situation. EITHER you set a goal of losing weight OR you reject the artificial standards of beauty and suspect medical advice to lose weight at all costs.

And rarely do I see a recognition that obesity itself is a way in which obese people are victimized. Our society subsidizes heinously unhealty, hypercaloric food in large amounts, and actively discourages exercise except as a pastime for the privileged. As a result, many of us get fat.

I've got no problem with the fat acceptance folks. I think there are round people that are perfectly healthy and look great. I know that I was healthier and stronger and more athletic at 45 years old and 230 pounds than I was when I was 20 and weighed a hundred pounds less. Being fat is not a character flaw.

But shifting blame off the backs of us fat people doesn't mean the blame disappears. And it irks me when I hear people say that trying to lose weight in a sensible fashion by improving your lifestyle is somehow playing into oppressive social mores. As someone whose obesity was linked strongly to depression, I see that kind of talk as a metaphoric gun to my head. It's enabling, plain and simple.

I have a family history of eating disorders and have dealt with anorexia myself, and the statistics for how many would prefer a child with anorexia really disturb me, I would imagine those who chose that have very little realistic idea of what life with/for an anorexic is really like, or the scope of the accompanying medical problems that can have an impact far beyond recovery.

I object to the sterotype that eating excessive amounts of food and/or being sedentary is necessary in order to be obese. Bizarre as it may seem to the "average" person, it is indeed possible to be obese while working out and eating under 2000 calories a day. I experienced it myself, despite constant accusations that I had to be lying about what I was eating, or doing, or both.

That's not to say we don't each have ultimate responsibility for our health and weight - we do, but we all have different physiological baselines to start from. The fact that society refuses to acknowledge that (preferring to accuse fat people of moral weakness and/or stupidity), paired with the equally distressing fact that I haven't eaten pizza since September, is definitely enough to make me depressed.

Though I'm not going to bother finding the statistics myself, I wouldn't be surprised if obesity took ten years off your life. So people making that deal might not lose any time, if they worded it properly.

> a doctor once explained obesity to another
> friend of mine as resulting from additive behavior.

Well, naturally! If it were subtractive behavior the result would be anorexia.


I doubt anyone who has had major depression would trade for obesity.

Would I be willing to give up 10 years of my life to be thin? Hell yes, only because I know how little I enjoy life while fat. That is the only concession I'd make (of the choices given in the survey).

There's no way I would choose to have depression. I have been suffering from severe clinical depression since 1996, so I guess I'm just lucky; I get to experience both it and obesity at the same time! I get so angry at all the literature that lists "loss of appetite" as a symptom of depression. I wish.

"Depressed? Eat comfort foods, which leads to weight gain, which leads to more depression, which leads to eating more comfort foods, more weight gain, followed by deeper depression .."
This statement is exactly how it feels for me. Please add me to your collection of anecdotal evidence- the Cycle of Lard does exist. I am living, jiggly proof.

How do I feel about being obese? It sucks [perspiring farm animal gonads].